“I wrote my new book, Grow, Cook, Nourish, because I am so worried about thedeterioration in our diet. People need to take some control over the food they are eating,” said the Irish Examiner food columnist.
“We have handed over control to supermarkets and multinational companies and our health is not their responsibility. Their only responsibility is to their shareholders,” she added.
Darina said money can be cited as a barrier to eating well but argues that we all “make time and money for the things we think are important.” As the eldest of nine children she remembers her mother’s love of cooking and a phrase she always said.
“My mother would say that if we don’t spend money putting wholesome food on the table, we’ll just end up giving it to the doctor or the chemist,” said Darina.
In terms of the data researchthat looks into our shopping baskets, she believes it indicates that we are no longer cooking from scratch.
“I am interested to see that there is no flour or butter on the list. It seems people just want food to put on the table without doing anything to it. It’s all indicating towards people cooking less from scratch.
“However, I am glad to see that whole milk is top of the list. This low-fat thing has been a disaster as a health issue. Only vitamin B and C are water soluble, the rest of the vitamins are fat soluble so we need some fat with the rest of our food, be it from butter or olive oil or whole milk, in order to absorb nutrients into our bodies,” said Darina.
She added that there was nothing in the recent data that pointed to people eating seasonally.
“Foods that are in-season are the foods that we need to eat at that point in time,” she said.
In terms of what customers eat in her hotel, she said they are always drawn to their freshly-baked breads and homemade butter. They do not serve sliced pans.
“Our bread is made from scratch and we make our own butter too. Customers will eat slice after slice of toast from the homemade bread with that butter on it and drink our juice which is squeezed fresh.” She firmly believes that to get people back cooking we need to “get practical cooking back into the curriculum”.
“When we go into the junior schools and teach the children how to cook, they get so excited. If we do that nationally, we will have a very different consumer,” she said.
NO MAGIC BULLET
Former sprint hurdles champion and Irish Examiner food columnist Derval O’Rourke says when it comes to eating your way healthier, there is no magic bullet.
“I get a huge amount of feedback from people that use my recipes. The main themes that come back is that Irish people really want to do their best to nourish their bodies in a simple and economical way.
“Most of us are incredibly busy which means fussy and complicated cooking with ingredients that are difficult to get is not for us as a nation.
“People ask me a huge amount about food to be healthier or to lose weight. I try to tell people that there is no magic bullet; buying a packet of gluten-free snacks is not the answer to weight loss.
“As a nation I believe we want to eat good-quality ingredients that are cooked in a simple way. Dairy and meat we are good at, but I feel we need to concentrate more on getting extra vegetables and fish into our diets.
“One of our worst habits is our low consumption of vegetables and an over-reliance on processed foods. We need to ditch the diets and get back to using lots of our ingredients produced on our island.”